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Quotation Marks

What do languages like Catalan, European Portuguese, and European Spanish have in common?

Modern physical keyboards and their lack of readily available keys for using guillemets in languages like Catalan, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Unlike English, those three languages primarily use guillemets («…») as quotation marks.

For instance, the Código de Redação for Portuguese-language documents published in the European Union prescribes three levels regarding the use of quotation marks:


That convention is also followed in Catalan and Spanish but not in English, which only uses:

“…‘…’…” or ‘…“…”…’

Guillemets are known by many names in the languages mentioned above:

  • Catalan calls them cometes baixes, cometes llatines, cometes franceses, or cometes angulars.

  • English also refers to them as angle, Latin, Castilian, Spanish, or French quotes or quotation marks.

  • Portuguese calls them aspas angulares, aspas latinas, aspas em linha, or vírgulas dobradas.

  • Spanish calls them comillas angulares, comillas bajas, comillas españolas, comillas francesas, or comillas latinas.

At one point, you may have asked yourself this question:

If they are the preferred type of quotation mark in my language, why are they not readily available on modern keyboards?

In my experience, you will see guillemets («…») used more in print. Meanwhile, double (“…”) and single (‘…’) quotation marks seem to have become the standard in digital media.

And I think it is because it is too much of an inconvenience to memorize and press key combinations such as the following:

  • Alt+0171 and Alt+0187 for Windows

  • ⌥ Opt+\ and ⌥ Opt+⇧ Shift+\ for Mac

Caution — Those combinations are for English-language keyboard layouts and may differ from other language layouts!

If you work translating or writing for others, make sure to check your client’s style guide to find out what their preference is regarding the use of quotation marks.

Questions for my readers:

  • Are guillemets the primary quotation marks in your language?

  • If so, do keyboards in your country have a specific key for them?

  • If not, do you know the workarounds?

  • Or do you just simply ignore them?

  • How do you call them in your language?


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